Guyana is now receiving ‘mixed signals’ on the amount of rice Jamaica will purchase after efforts were made to ensure that the commodity is available for that market.
This is according to Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud, who on Tuesday last, pointed out that “from all indications so far, there is market for all rice available for export in 2008.”
Persaud met with the local exporters to discuss the status of the rice industry, with emphasis on markets for the commodity.
The Minister further said that Jamaica cannot guarantee any particular quantity of rice to be purchased from Guyana but has indicated a willingness to buy the commodity.
“I remain somewhat optimistic and based on some of the numbers that I have seen and some of the stated intentions of the importers, the purchase of rice from Guyana will continue until the end of 2008…Whether it would be at the levels of 2007, we are yet to see.”
According to Persaud, he had written to Jamaica’s Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Karl Samuda, to seek clarification regarding his comments about the purchase of rice from Guyana.
“I sense from his e-mail that there is willingness on the part of the Jamaican Government to encourage purchase and to ensure that those involved in the rice importation business in Jamaica conduct and carry out purchases of rice from Guyana.”
According to Persaud, the Jamaican Minister noted that whilst he could not guarantee any particular quantity, there is a willingness to purchase the commodity from Guyana.
“A month to month comparison shows that we are just about 7,000 tonnes below what would have been the amount purchased last year for the same period.”
The rice that Guyana has available for export this year, Persaud said, will be sold.
There are aggressive moves by local exporters to look at other markets outside Jamaica and Europe.
At present, there are efforts to penetrate the Panama, Poland and African markets for sale of the commodity.
“We have also received enquires from the World Food Programme about coming to Guyana to purchase rice. There are moves to look at additional markets to take care of the quantities that we have available.”
Hitting out at the local rice exporters and millers, Persaud that that had there been a functioning Guyana Rice Millers and Exporters Development Association, it would have ensured that all the players act in a way so that they do not harm the industry.
The Minister pointed out that whilst there has been a dip in prices of rice globally, this is not sufficient enough to disadvantage rice farmers of fair prices.
Persons, he warned, are using the discussions that are taking place, the reports and the views that are being exchanged, as a reason to impose a reduced price on farmers. According to the Minister, this should not be done to cheat the farmers.
At present there are buyers, who deal with the Jamaican markets, in Guyana securing contracts for the purchase of rice to purchase commodities produced in Guyana.
Jamaica does not have any legal obligation to purchase rice from Guyana.
Guyana has been operating on a good faith and verbal commitment from that country to purchase the commodity each year.
During bilateral discourses with Jamaica on the rice issue earlier in the year, it was decided that a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) should be signed to concretise that country’s rice purchase commitment.
However, that agreement is yet to be concluded since Jamaican Minister Karl Samuda does not have the legal jurisdiction to give such a guarantee.
The Attorney General in that country has indicated that the rice importation issue is a ‘private sector business’ and that Minister Samuda has no authority whatsoever to guarantee anything.
As such, Samuda has since presented Guyana with a ‘Best Endeavour’ agreement, which states that he will do all in his power to ensure that the committed quota is imported.
Guyana, however, is yet to sign on to that agreement.
Jamaica has organized the Jamaican Commodity Trading Corporation but this is yet to be operational.
Early in the year, Jamaica had applied for the suspension of the Common External Tariff (CET) on rice for a six-month period.
However, Guyana objected to the request on the basis of its ability and readiness to supply the quantities required by Jamaica.
Last year, Jamaica bought over 51,000 tonnes from Guyana.
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